Afghan Women Defend Their Rights Against the Taliban

NARRATOR: Kunduz, Afghanistan. In 2017, this province and its capital are
an uncertain front line of war. Taliban fighters who hold parts of rural Afghanistan, aim to undermine the government by taking over a major city for the first time. Kunduz is a rich but rugged farming province in Afghanistan’s northeast. For years, it has been a rare northern stronghold
of the Taliban. But the provincial capital, Kunduz city, also
has an active civil society, including a local women’s rights movement. In the shadow of the Taliban, Sediqa Sherzai
runs a women’s radio station. Radio Roshani, or “Enlightenment Radio,”
broadcasts a campaign for human and women’s rights, and democracy. In October 2015, the Taliban briefly captured the city, overwhelming government troops. Taliban fighters quickly began hunting the city’s women activists. They looted the offices of women’s organizations, including Radio Roshani, stealing equipment and burning files. Sherzai tells her story on condition that
her face not be shown, to avoid helping the Taliban identify her. They repeatedly have attacked and tried
to kill her. NARRATOR: Afghan troops with U.S. support
forced out the Taliban, but attacks continue. Kunduz residents say they fear the city could
fall again, any time. Sherzai and her husband worked for months
to put Radio Roshani back on the air. In a now more fearful city, she says, much
of her staff has fled and the work is more difficult. Since 2008, Radio Roshani has broadcast discussion
programs, call-in shows, interviews with local women, and readings from the Quran to contest
violent interpretations of Islam, and restrictions on women in schools, workplaces and public
life. The radio urges women to assert their rights
to education and a voice in their communities. Nationwide, Afghanistan has a handful of women’s
radio stations. They are the most public voice of the women’s
movement. And they’re vital in part as the only means
to reach isolated women, notably in rural areas. SCOTT WORDEN: USIP supports radio programs like Sediqa’s because they engage Afghan citizens to
improve governance and to reduce corruption. This is important for Afghanistan democracy, but it’s also a low-cost
way of countering extremist messages from groups like ISIS. When Afghan citizens engage the government it improves Afghan stability and also protects U.S. interests.

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